This eyesore Urbana site could soon have new life after a long cleanup

A Champaign County economic development agency is getting ready to market a long-abandoned manufacturing site near downtown Urbana as a lengthy cleanup process moves ahead.

The Champaign Economic Partnership will soon begin marketing the former Q3 and Johnson Manufacturing site, said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for the CEP. The agency acts as an economic development entity for Champaign County. A lengthy cleanup of the site could be completed by the end of this year, so promoting the site now would allow more time to ensure a developer is in place, Bailey said.

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“My plan is to go ahead and start marketing now because it should be ready by the end of this year or early next year for someone to actually go in and start building on it,” she said.

The site’s access to U.S. 36 makes sense for a potential manufacturing company, but it’s also possible retail and other uses could be developed on part of the roughly 20-acre property, she said.

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“The zoning right now is for manufacturing,” Bailey said. “But we’re looking at whether it would make better sense on the east side to make it more of a mixed use environment because there would be space for retail, offices and manufacturing combined if that was the need.”

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Once complete, Bailey said the complicated project will remove a property that was a nuisance to the city and local first responders. Once redeveloped, the goal is to use the property to attract more jobs and investment to the city. The abandoned Q3 site at Miami and Beech streets has been an eyesore in Urbana for years, creating concerns about safety, vandalism and drug use on the property. In 2015, a fire destroyed much of the building.

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City officials took control of the property under the conditions that overdue taxes were cleared off the books and funding was secured to perform necessary demolition and clean up contamination at the site. The process to acquire the site and secure the necessary funding was a lengthy process, but once the work was underway, the project moved forward fairly quickly, said Kerry Brugger, director of administration for Urbana.

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“The bulk of the demolition, the buildings that are going to come down, for the most part are down,” Brugger said. “They’re working on slab removal, and they’ll finish up and (do) soil remediation that needs to be completed.”

There is work left to do on the existing buildings on the site that will remain there. The city contracted with True Inspection Services, an Urbana-based developer, to clean up and redevelop the site. Other partners included Honeywell, with whom the city contracted to clean soil on the rear west side of the site.

Once the work is complete, the city will seek a Covenant Not to Sue from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. That designation will show the site is cleaned up and in good condition, a key to allowing the city to eventually transfer the property.

True Inspection Services will initially take over part of the property once the work is complete and work with the CEP to find candidates to occupy the site. The company is also renovating the remaining buildings for office space or warehouse space by next year.

“We anticipate the cleanup and remediation part of the project should be done in the next eight weeks,” said Joe Timm, vice president for True Inspection Services.

There are prospective tenants for the property, Timm said, but he declined to disclose them because the project is still months from completion. He said the company had previous experience renovating the former Buckles Motors dealership and converting it to office space and warehousing. Finishing the Q3 project will provide several benefits to the city, he said.

“It will add some jobs to the community and increase the tax base,” Timm said. “It will definitely be good for the community, along with getting rid of an eyesore.”

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